Trumpeter Swans on a Delta farm field near Vancouver

Trumpeter Swans on a Delta farm field near Vancouver

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After a morning well spent at Boundary Bay Regional Park in the Delta region south of Vancouver, Bob and I made our way towards another popular birdwatching location still situated on the Fraser River estuary, the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  While progressing in that northwesterly direction, we had to pass through an extensive array of farm fields, and in one such field, Bob and I spotted a number of Trumpeter Swans scavenging for remnants of grain.

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There certainly was no lack of birds in that area bordering the coast.  We saw numerous Great Blue Herons, a few Bald Eagles, and a couple of Flickers while navigating the series of narrow back roads, in addition to the Trumpeter Swans.  It was impossible to miss their brilliant plumage against the dull brown soil.

red holly bush - delta - bc

We were mere days past Christmas, and with the holiday season still at the forefront of my mind, when I glanced to my left and took in the radiant beauty of a bright green tree amply sprinkled with red, my first thought was that someone had put red bows on an evergreen to celebrate the season.

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I hopped down from the running board of the vehicle, where I had to stand to gain elevation since barbed wire fencing obstructed our view of the flat field, and went over for a closer look.  I felt a bit foolish when I realized that a wild holly tree amply loaded with brilliant red berries was standing in for a Christmas tree.  It was very beautiful.

trumpeter swans on delta farmland - BC

On the far side of the bare field, Trumpeter Swans were scattered in various groups, and within each group, we could see immature swans alongside those that were older.  All were actively foraging amongst the grain stubbles in the wet soil, made so by several days’ rain, and their bills showed evidence of a buff-coloured mud slick.

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Cygnets’ plumage still retains its grey colour even into the first autumn after hatching, being darkest on the crown and back of the neck.  If the film of dried mud were lacking, we could see that the bill is pinkish with a black tip, base and around the nostrils.  It is not until after the first year that cygnets’ plumage becomes the more familiar white.

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Trumpeter Swans usually inhabit lakes, large wetlands and slow rivers, but in winter is when they can be found around the mouths of rivers along the coast.  During breeding season, these particular swans will move further north in British Columbia where they will construct their nests on elevated mounds such as on a small island or muskrat house in a marsh.

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A pair of Trumpeter Swans will form a lifelong bond for breeding purposes but not until they are 3 or 4 years old.  Once bonded, they will stay together throughout the year, even during migratory movements.  Trumpeter Swans can live anywhere between 12 and 35 years.

trumpeter swan on delta farmland - BC

Trumpeter Swans feed primarily on aquatic plants and eat not only the leaves and stems but will also unearth the roots and tubers from the muddy bottom.  Their situation there on the saturated farm field provided good practice for when they upend and dabble at submerged food while swimming.  It is the Trumpeter Swan’s exceptionally long neck that facilitates the search for food on the bottom of ponds.  These swans, the largest in the world, are recognizable when flying because the neck is held straight out in front of the body.  They are magnificent birds.

For information regards Trumpeter Swans in Delta, BC, checkout: Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust

For more information on efforts to save Trumpeter Swans in Canada and across North America, please checkout the following websites:

The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre

Donate now to the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre:  Trumpeter Swan Reintroduction Program

The Trumpeter Swan Society – Ontario Working Group

The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to assuring the vitality and welfare of wild Trumpeter Swan populations.

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